The Bread of Fellowship at #GCNConf

Practicing real hospitality in the midst of extreme differences can be hard. What does it mean to make another person feel truly welcome when their needs are seemingly at odds with yours? This question drives the ethos of the Gay Christian Network’s annual conference. How can we welcome all who want to be present, inviting each and every person to be challenged by God’s radical and unrelenting hospitality while simultaneously creating a safe space for all to feel loved and accepted? It is a high call. And as conference veterans, it’s a call we embrace as a part of our own call to hospitality.

One of the hardest places to practice real hospitality is the Communion table. Real hospitality requires that people consider the needs, desires, and convictions of others, taking special notice of irreconcilable matters of conscience. Various Christian traditions have developed diverse views of what happens during Communion, who can partake of Communion, and what Communion means. Moreover, each individual Christian is always encouraged to examine their conscience before taking Communion in order to decide how they want to respond when a particular opportunity to receive is available. There are so many reasons why a person would make a choice to abstain from receiving Communion. The choice to receive Communion can only be a free choice if the choice to abstain is also available.

Towards that end, the two of us have sought to create an option for GCN Conference attendees where people who come to the worship service that takes place during the closing session have the option to receive something other than blessed Eucharistic elements. This is the Bread of Fellowship. We started this tradition at GCN Conference 2013 in Phoenix, Arizona as a way to help conference attendees from closed-communion denominations, non-Christian attendees, and others who are not comfortable receiving Communion to feel more welcome. But this is not a tradition we made up on our own: we got the idea from the Eastern Christian practice of setting aside a basket of unconsecrated bread that can be shared by any or all in attendance at the liturgy. This unconsecrated bread is called antidoron. In Eastern Christian practice, the bread that is consecrated is cut from a larger loaf. The unconsecrated leftovers from this larger loaf become the antidoron, which is often linked to the Gospel stories where Christ feeds the multitude and the disciples fill baskets with what is remaining. We loved the idea of the Bread of Fellowship being something that could feed all, even when matters of conscience prevented people from receiving Communion.

At this year’s GCN Conference in Houston, the Bread of Fellowship was offered and blessed with the following prayer:

Living God, source of light,
hope of nations, friend of all,
builder of the city that is to come:
your love is made visible in Jesus Christ,
you bring home the lost, heal the broken,
and give dignity to the despised.
You gather us together, feeding and nourishing us.
In the face of Jesus Christ
we see your light shining out,
flooding lives with goodness and truth,
gathering into one a divided and broken humanity,
with people from every race and nation,
with the Church of all the ages.
Bless this bread, and unite us in fellowship.
Strengthen and preserve us in community with one another.
May all find welcome at this Table of Fellowship.

It is our prayer that God continues to bless everyone who has ever gathered at a Gay Christian Network and guides each and every person where they can hear the heartfelt words of, “You are welcome at this table of fellowship.”

Comment Policy: Please remember that we, and all others commenting on this blog, are people. Practice kindness. Practice generosity. Practice asking questions. Practice showing love. Practice being human. If your comment is rude, it will be deleted. If you are constantly negative, argumentative, or bullish, you will not be able to comment anymore. We are the sole moderators of the combox.

6 thoughts on “The Bread of Fellowship at #GCNConf

  1. But if the bread is blessed, surely it is consecrated, set apart, transignified, or whatever terminology one wants to use. If people come together in fellowship and in the name of the Lord, then the whole occasion is a time of consecration.

  2. Could I ask you to do a blog post about how Catholic youth groups ought to be more Catholic? I remember when I was a member of Life Teen, the local chapter had the kids do an Amazing Race across Stuttgart, Germany (that’s where the chapter was) and the only thing Catholic-related we did was stand outside of a Catholic church, take a picture of us with a rubber duckie and then walk away. It was a fun thing to do, but I think that it would’ve been more appropriate for a secular youth group to hold that kind of event instead of a Catholic one. They could’ve had a Catholic-themed Amazing Race, but they didn’t. Plus I found out that the Life Teen site itself is pretty wild with things not even related to Catholicism or would even make you reflect on it. For example, there was an article titled “Mass Fitness” (like, really?!) and then there was an article on what kind of selfies to take. Totally Catholic, right?

  3. While the andidoron has become used to show hospitality and a desire for communion with those not able to receive Communion, it should be noted that it is not it’s primary purpose. The main reason for it is for the faithful to cleanse their mouths following reception of the Eucharist, to make sure everything received has been consumed and nothing is left in the mouth.

  4. I’m glad I stumbled across your blog this morning. As an openly Gay Christian myself I admit that I have some of my own bias and hurt from being told for many years that I was required to be celibate. I look forward to being challenged by hearing more of both your stories.

Leave a Reply